The most anticipated new book of 2015 debuted this week. Libraries and book stores have been gearing up for the many requests for Go Set a Watchman, the only other book written by Harper Lee, the author of the magnificent and much loved 1960 classic To Kill a Mockingbird.
The classic is set in small Alabama town and narrated by 10-year-old Scout who tells a story of racial injustice and the moral role model her attorney father Atticus Finch plays in defending an unjustly accused African American man. Mockingbird is one of the most read books in America and retains its literary power and page-turning pull on readers.
In the last few weeks the anticipation for Go Set a Watchman, which is set 20 years after Mockingbird, has turned a bit to unease as the history of this book and its contents have unraveled. The book was written prior to Mockingbird and appears to be a draft for the classic, rather than a stand-alone novel. Literary historians have uncovered publishing notes written by Ms. Lee’s editor that encourage Lee to disregard the story and concentrate on the flashback to when Scout was 10-years-old. The big bombshell about Watchman is that the new book portrays Atticus Finch not as a man of conscience and fairness, but as a racist whose language belies what readers have come to know about him.
To read Go Set a Watchman or not? The now 89-year-old Harper Lee no longer gives interviews so she cannot encourage or discourage us with her motivation. Why not read both? Read To Kill a Mockingbird if you have never read it or not read it in years. Read Go Set a Watchman and share a provocative conversation with other readers.